Editorial: ‘Data drought’ crippling rural communities

It was touted as the technology to finally bring Australia into the 21st century, though perhaps not to the extent of some of our trading partners.

The National Broadband Network would provide internet access and speeds that would make it far easier for us all to learn, to be entertained and to develop new markets for existing and fledgling businesses.

We had already seen the amazing success of similar infrastructure investments overseas, with the experience of South Korea the absolute standout example.

Labor promised one big expensive system and was in the process of making that happen when they got booted out of power.

It was then the Coalition’s job to deliver the NBN, albeit a system that had far fewer bells and whistles.

This though, they explained, meant it was affordable and able to be delivered in a timely manner for all Australians, regardless of whether they lived in the big smoke or the bush.

Over the past year this version of the NBN has slowly come to the Bendigo region. Along with that has been the spruikers encouraging households to sign-up for some amazing deals, with some equally amazing connection speeds.

If you restricted your reading to the advertisements and the PR spin, you would easily think the NBN has comfortably delivered everything anyone could ever want.

The reality, though, is quite different.

The Victorian Farmers Federation fears that the NBN, for all its promise, won’t provide primary producers and rural families with either the reception or download speeds they need.

This week, the VFF will join will join with 16 other groups in a regional, rural and remote communications coalition in travelling to Canberra to lobby federal parliamentarians.

It is not unfair to say that the state’s regional centres generally have poor telecommunications technology, but it gets dramatically worse the further out one goes.

The VFF describes this situation as a “data drought” that is holding the nation’s farming sector – a sector that is forecast to be worth $63 billion in 2016-17 – back from reaching its full potential.

We support the communications coalition’s call for rural people to get their voice heard on these issues in order to find solutions.

Only then might regional Australia be truly heard.